A burst of redfish activity has been noted in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal feeder rivers. Most of reds (also known as red drum or channel bass) that come into the rivers and creeks are small and must be released if they measure less than 18 inches, but in the Bay some have been hooked that weigh 30 and 40 pounds. For example, Jim Smith, of Potomac, and his fishing partner, Ben Zeigler, said they saw hundreds of surface-cruising redfish in the lower Maryland parts of the Bay a week ago. Smith hooked and landed one that measured 44 inches and weighed over 40 pounds. Redfish are not an everyday occurrence in upper Chesapeake areas, but they do show up now and then.
The larger specimens can provide a muscle-numbing fight and the taste, well, as chef Paul Prudhomme of blackened redfish fame will say, is memorable. If you hook one, remember an identifying mark are almost iridescent black spots on one or both sides of its tail.
The Bay also gives up plenty of 18- to 24-inch striped bass, bluefish of all sizes, but it seems the availability of croakers is declining, with the exception perhaps of the lower Maryland Bay parts known as the Middle Grounds, especially at night. To be sure, some "hardheads are caught elsewhere, but simply not in the great numbers we thought would occur this summer.
In the tidal Potomac River, the cooler nights and pleasant days have energized some of the largemouth bass. From the Piscataway Creek down to the Chicamuxen and Quantico creeks, marsh edges and weed beds hold bass that are wiling to strike soft plastics, topwater lures or crankbaits — especially when the tide is rushing out.
In the offshore waters of Virginia and Maryland, expect some billfish, king mackerel and dolphin action, while inshore portions hold bluefish, Spanish mackerel and closer in yet, some flounder fishing.
Here is this week's fishing outlook:
(Ratings key: ★★★★=excellent fishing; ★★★=Good; ★★Fair; ★=Poor.)
AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (★★★) — At Fletcher's Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) expect some decent catfish activity along with a few bass, maybe a rockfish. Downstream, largemouth bass will cooperate if you fish strong outgoing tides from Fox Ferry Point to the insides of creeks and coves where marsh banks, weed beds and shoreline wood is found, including the Broad, Piscataway, Dogue, Pohick, Pomonkey, and so on down to the Potomac and Aquia creeks. Early hours and ebb tides are great for topwater action, but wacky-rigged or Texas-style plastic worms, as well as crankbaits, can turn the trick. Catfish are hooked in the deeper channel waters, including some heavy-duty blue cata. Beyond the Route 301 Bridge, not much is happening until you get to St. Clements Island where trollers in the main stem of the river find barely legal rockfish, but around Piney Point and the Steuart Pier, there are some keeper flounder that love live minnows on a weighted bottom rig. St. George's Island's dropoffs, Cornfield Harbor and the opposing Virginia shore's waters have also given up flounder. Trollers in the main stem find bluefish and rockfish, many of them yhoung, dumb and small.
WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (★★) — From Quade's Store (301/769-3903) in Bushwood, George Quade said croakers can be caught, but things have slowed down a bit. "However, there are days in August when they bunch up and you can catch quite a few," he said. White perch are plentiful, but the Norfolk spot aren't available in large numbers. At the rockpile-surrounded buoy in the mouth of the river, some keeper rockfish are caught by slow-trollers.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — We had two different types of days this week inside the creek. One day we caught the latter part of the outgoing tide along the upper creek's marsh banks and whipped up on the bass with wacky-rigged worms and topwater poppers; but on another day when higher tides were present, the fishing was much slower.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) — Gilbert Run Park's Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows little fishing action, according to one lake visitor who is a lake regular. At St. Mary's Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) Ken Lamb reported that, "Bass fishing is terrific —- no kidding. You cannot keep them from attacking any lure you want to present and some lunkers are mixed in with those 12-inchers." Sunfish, crappies and chain pickerel are biting as well, said Lamb.
LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (★★★) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) have been good for early hour bass, but also day-time catfish and sunfish. These are great family places to visit.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Can't say if you'll score, but an acquaintance of mine caught a couple of fine bass in the 4-pound range using a fat Senko worm around a piece of sunken wood in Rocky Gorge. Sunfish and crappies are available, but the crappies are widely scattered and hard to find.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports white perch in the creeks are hitting spinners and just about any small flashy lure during moving tides. Ken Lamb says, "Bobbers in the brushpiles, and hooks baited with bloodworm, will bring in the big horses." He, too, agrees that many small red drum are mixed in with the perch, but most are under the 18-inch-limit. Flounder are at the 3-legged buoy in the mouth of the river. Some stragglers are caught under the Solomon's Bridge at the Shoal marker.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, "The crappie and catfish bite remains strong, but bass are a little tougher to come by. Early and late topwater baits have worked well but come sun-up the bass suspend in deep water and are tougher to catch. Deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastics, fished in the mouths of long, deep coves and off deep main-lake points produced some quality fish last week. The reservoir remains at full pool, clear with surface temperatures in the mid to high 80's."
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Fish early and yhou'll hook a topwater lure-loving bass around various lake points and brushy areas. After sun-up, switch to soft plastics. Bluegills are everywhere, but try to find a crappie. They're here, but they aren't biting most days.
AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — The upper river shows pretty good fishing for smallmouth bass, but remember that the water levels are down, which is fine for wading.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said, "Deep Creek Lake has been tough to fish. We are taking a few smallmouth bass on Tiny Torpedoes and [other] propeller baits early in the morning on main-lake points. After the sun rises, we go to the docks for largemouth bass using 4-inch stick baits, rigged wacky-style. We'll catch a few, but not many. A few walleyes will hit drifted minnows near grass lines in deeper water.Remind anglers to go early and come in before noon. Boat traffic is horrendous."
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★★) — There's a chance of hooking a rockfish in the deep pool below Conowingo Dam, but not many fishermen score. Use a Chug Bug or Striper Swiper topwater lure or a jerkbait when water is released in the evening hours.
AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — Christy Henderson of Buzz's Marina (buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome's Creek in St. Mary's County, said, "The Spanish mackerel fishing is getting a little better. There were good concentrations of them between buoys 1 and 3 in the mouth of the Potomac. and in the Middle Grounds. Flounder fishing is picking up some with a ratio of about four sub legals to one keeper. There are some rockfish schooling up at Cornfield Harbor and nighttime fishing is still producing jumbo croakers in the Middle Grounds with more and more red drum ( a.k.a. redfish, channel bass) being caught as well. One man reported a large school of large red drum rolling on top on Saturday. The bluefish are everywhere and more in the four to five pound range were caught this week. Rockfish trollers and live-liners in the Bay, from Point No Point to the Gas Docks and north to the Bay Bridges, can do well on various sizes of bluefish and striped bass. But if it's croakers you're looking for, the numbers have declined a bit in the upper Bay parts.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (email@example.com) reports, "Spanish mackerel fishing has been very good. They've been widespread throughout the middle Bay. The western shores are holding "Spanish" around the Rappahannock, Great Wicomico and Potomac river mouths. Small spoons trolled at a quick 7 knots have been producing specimens up to 28 inches this week." Bluefish are everywhere for the trollers, but take along a spinning rod with a popping plug because some of the blues are surfacing and will strike a lure. Rockfish are also among the bluefish schools. Croaker fishing has been best in the mouth of the Rappahannock River. In the lowest parts of the Bay, Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) finds flounder from north of the 4th island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on live bait, while drifters are finding good luck along lower bay channels and shoals, as well as within Lynnhaven Inlet. Nice fish in the 5-pound range are coming from around the 1st island of the Bridge-Tunnel. Croakers are found throughout the lower Bay.
AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND
CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Fair to good croaker, spot, perch, snapper blues and rockfish catches in the mouth area. Bass fishing above Denton has been fair.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The largemouth bass catches have held up. Small, shallow-running crankbaits and soft plastics do well around spatterdock edges and in sunken wood and tree roots.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The bass fishing has its ups and downs here. This week wasn't a barnburner, but some decent fish were hooked above Sharptown and inside the Marshyhope Creek. Most of them came on jerkbaits and plastic worms, such as the Senko.
AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) As recommended last week, earlybirds caught some decent rockfish and bass. The lake has been windy over the past several days, so boat traffic wasn't very busy.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — Waders do okay in the upper river, above Fredericksburg, as smallmouth bass inhale small topwater lures or -ounce tube jigs. Tidal water bass around Hicks Landing, Port Royal or Potobago Bay has been slow, but some fat bass are scored with plastic worms.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Slow on bass, but good if it's catfish, sunfish and crappies you like.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish are your best bet early in the day; ditto for bass. Lots of sunfish if you care to fish with flyrod popping bugs.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone said the Eaton's Ferry Bridge area continues to deliver good bass fishing on a variety of lures. Boat tarffoc on weekends can be mindboggling.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Above average catfish and bass chances this week, but it has been a bit windy. Upper lake bass catches have been good as jerkbaits, swimbaits and plastic worms do the job.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are the the best bet, but it's not as red-hot this month as it will be in the fall.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★★) — (Williamsburg area) Catfish again this week, plus some fair bass and striper chances in the middle and upper parts of the river. Try loud popping lures around grassy river points before sunrise. Stripers might be waiting.
AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Dick Fox, of Front Royal, said, "Smallmouth bass like any kind of flashy spinner or tube jig. The water continues to be low, but it's very fishable."
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttime rockfish fans sit in the "S" Curve and wait for a striper to pick up a whole bait sunfish. Largemouth bass, some smallmouths also, hang around shoreline rock formations and will look at a short plastic worm or small crankbait.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Waders find smallmouth action with surface plugs, spinners, or flyrod streamers and poppers. Catfish are biting.
AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Flounder are a good possibility in the backwaters at Ocean CVity, but keepers aren't easy to come by. The inlet at the resort city sees some striper action, but they must be 28 inches long if you want to keep one. The surf is mostly good for small stuff, kingfish, snapper blues and even a croaker now and then. Offshore charter boats connect on dolphinfish, many of them small, but the catches are good. The canyon waters produce some decent billfish and yellowfin tuna.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Virginia Beach's Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported that tollers are enjoying Spanish mackerel action along the coastal areas from Cape Henry to Sandbridge. "The promise of a king mackerel encounter is enticing many anglers to the ocean front in the hopes of hooking a smoker, but finding the fish can be a challenge. The king mackerel bite is a little slower this week, and most fish are ranging to around 10 to15-pounds," she said. Tarpon action on the Eastern shore is mostly sighting of fish, some jump-offs, and one or two landings. "Amberjacks are active on wrecks and navigational towers, with the Chesapeake Light Tower also offering a shot at big barracudas, she added. Deep offshore regions are good for billfish, including white marlin, some blue marlin and sailfish. "Nice gaffer dolphin and a few big wahoo are also available," Ball said. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.
• Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.